Detroit Lions Mock Draft Version 1.2
Detroit is a team that is on the cusp of greatness. They are literally just a few pieces away from being a dominant team in the NFL. There will always be debate about what those pieces are, and in this mock draft, I'd like to highlight the pieces I think Detroit could utilize the most for a season in pursuit of the NFL Champions Lombardi Trophy.
We all know the bottom line: Matthew Stafford has to stay healthy for the Lions to have a dominant season in 2011. But is there more than one way to skin a cat? Why yes, there sure is.
Some think that having a great O-Line is the path to keeping Stafford upright. To some extent, that's obvious. Of course, we need an offensive line (LT included) to keep him upright. But part of keeping him upright is also a matter of not having to ask him to work miracles to win a football game (five TD's to beat the Browns as a rookie for example).
There is something to be said for a defense that regularly stops an opposing offense, limits opponents' points and maybe scores some of their own. A defense like that makes it much easier for even mediocre QB's to win championships. Just look at the Ravens of 2001 with Trent Dilfer or the Buccaneers in 2003 with Brad Johnson, or just about any Steelers Super Bowl victory, all won with mediocre QB's (Yes, I consider Ben Roethlisburger to be Mediocre QB's).
Many people believe that the path to success for the Detroit Lions to win is by keeping Matthew Stafford vertical by drafting an OT with the 13th overall position in the draft. The reasoning here is that if it weren't for Backus being such an old poor OT, he never would have given up the sack in week one that allowed Julius Peppers to level Stafford from behind, there by ending his season basically in week one.
While it is true that Backus gave up that sack, and Stafford was injured and it affected the entire season. While it is also true that Backus accepted the blame for it in the locker room after the game, it is simply not true that drafting a LT prospect at No. 13 will automatically be better than Backus and displacing him to RT allowing the new rookie to fill his shoes at LT.
Yes, Lions fans, there is a very high water mark where Jeff Backus stands, and not just any draft prospect can come in as a "plug-in-play" rookie and meet that mark.
The simple fact of this year's draft is, it's chock full of great defensive prospects, while kind of weak on offensive tackle prospects, running backs and other offensive prospects. So with no clear cut Joe Thomas in this year's draft, why would Detroit ignore a potential Durrel Revis in a corner prospect?
So with that being said, the 2011 Mock Draft V 1.2 begins with a stated goal of building Detroit's defense to a point that it can stand on it's own merits as a great core group of players.
Starting from his tenure in 2009, Mayhew and Schwartz had the No. 32 overall defense in the NFL (dead last in most categories). In 2010, they were improving to mediocre in some categories while still struggling considerably in others.
Detroit Lions 2010 defensive rankings by category
Yards Allowed;: 21st with 343.6/game
Points allowed: 19th with 365/season or 32.1/Game
3rd down Stop percentage: 13th with 39 percent
Yards Per Play: 22nd with 5.5 Yards Per Play
Plays from Scrimmage on Defense: 16th with 1,005
(For the stat gurus out there, these five categories average out to 18.2 average position among NFL competition.)
These are just a few key measurements to high lite that Detroit is headed in the right direction, but an "average" defense is not going to get the Lions into the play off's. Even if they could take all of the best LT's in the draft with out letting any other teams pick, Detroit still has to stop the other team from scoring as many points. With a heavy dose of defensive talent in this draft, look for Detroit to pick a lot of guys on the Defensive side of the ball in two weeks at the 2011 NFL Draft.
Round 1: Prince Amukamara, Corner, Nebraska: Pick No. 13
In my first mock draft a couple weeks back, I predicted the Lions would pick Jimmy Smith here. That was mainly because many mocks were still projecting Amukamara to be gone, as well as the fact that I really think Jimmy Smith could be the best CB in this class. That being said, Amukamara is a very gifted talent, and the Lions would be very lucky to get him at the 13th spot.
Many people feel like the Lions are going to have a hard time finding talent in this year's draft in the first round, because for the first time in several years, the Lions do not have a top 10 pick. That's OK, though, as Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew are getting the hang of this draft thing, and they're getting pretty good at it.
Some of you out there are going to moan and complain that this pick needs to be an OT, and to you I say "nope".
Backus may be getting older, but he still gets the job done like old faithful. Not to mention he was also voted the best LT in the NFC North. So for those of you calling for his replacement to be found it his draft, I think it's safe to say we will hear about the Lions negotiating a short term two to three year deal for Backus this season to bring him into his final contract with the Lions. And yes, I expect to see Backus starting at LT for the 2011 season. The Lions could use help at the OT position, but they managed to finish out the regular season on a running game rampage while not having Cherilus, and that to me says a lot about the depth of the O-Line in Detroit.
Having said that about the OT position, no one can deny that the single most important position of need for Detroit is at the CB position. And with any real examination of the history of the draft, it's easy to see that sure fire starting CB's are hard to find after the first round.
The Lions have the best chance to pick a top shelf CB here, and they're going to take it. Even if Amukamara is off the board, the Lions can and probably still will take a CB in Jimmy Smith here at the 13th spot. Both players are elite talents, and the only knock on Smith are some maturity issues. If Smith had none of the maturity issues, though, his skills would easily put him above Amukamara, and him and Peterson would be the consensus top two CB's in this years draft. All three of these guys are "shut down corners", though, and ANY of them are better than who the Lions have right now at CB.
Alternate pick: Jimmy Smith (Who I will admit I like more on film than Amukamara)
Round 2: Bruce Carter, LB, UNC: Pick No. 44
Bruce Carter would be a consensus first-round draft pick if he were healthy right now. He would also be ranked above Akeem Ayers as the best OLB in the draft, because his film shows a guy that continues to pursue all the time, unlike Ayers. He's also a more versatile player, able to drop into coverage, whereas Ayers is more of a pass rush specialist.
Fortunately for the Lions, the rest of the NFL will be shy on taking Carter in the first round. At this point in the draft, though, the Lions can afford to take a gamble on a guy with loads of solid video showcasing his abilities, despite a knee injury that has kept him sidelined through the process of the draft.
Bruce Carter is sound in both run support and pass coverage, which is what the Lions look for in a linebacker. He's also got good size and speed for an LB. Even with his injury, he's ranked as a second to third round prospect on many draft boards and ranking sites.
Even the name "Bruce Carter" sounds like a good old American name that a linebacker in the NFL should have.
Most importantly, he will be able to start for a Lions LB corps that desperately needs help as soon as he is healthy.
Anytime you have a chance to add a starter in the second round, it's time to jump on the opportunity.
Other possibility: Mason Foster
Round 3: Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State: Pick No. 75
Greg Jones needs no introduction to football fans of the state of Michigan. Having played a full four years at MSU, anchoring a stout defense in 2010, Jones is a great football player. He notched 154 tackles and 14 tackles for a loss and nine sacks during his junior campaign. He could become a London Fletcher type, super hero tackling machine in the NFL. He's incredibly quick and responds quickly to the ball.
He stayed in college last year when his draft stock was rated as high as first round talent to learn to play the ball in coverage better. Having said that, I don't know what more you could ask for from Jones, considering his history of leading his defense, being a student of the game, having a great personal work ethic, as well as no personal blemishes, making him both a high character and high talent guy.
Ultimately, Jones is a bargain for the Lions in the third round. His issues are only two fold in that he played ILB in college and he's just not big enough to be a ILB in the NFL. So he's slightly under sized and he will have to transition to the WLB position in the NFL.
Having said that, with his range, ability to play the ball, his speed, work ethic, tackling ability and overall athleticism, the Lions get a starting weak side linebacker in the third round of the draft.
Other possibilities for this pick: Casey Matthews
Round 4: Mario Fannin, RB, Auburn: Pick No. 107
Mario Fannin is the best 3rd down back to come out of the draft in a very long time. He's not built for work horse running, but he can run. Oh boy, can he run! He's among the fastest of all the running backs in a 40 yard dash; however, his quick bursts are not as fast as Mark Ingram.
Still ,though, Fannin is faster once he's loose than any RB in the draft (fastest 40 among RB's at the combine). And best of all, he checks in at the scales just a shade under 230 lbs. We're talking a very big guy, going very fast=yardage. Best of all, he's got great hands and displays very good pass blocking skills.
Originally I had Fannin going to Detroit at the 154th pick in the fifth round; however, he's now rated as the 10th best feature style back at 128th overall ranking by www.drafttek.com and with rising stock. To ensure that Fannin is wearing blue and silver in 2011, the Lions should change up their defensive drafting strategy to put Fannin in a Lions uniform here in the fourth round.
The bottom line is that Mario Fannin is worth a whole lot more than he's being given credit for. Many draft boards have him skyrocketing in value since he lit the combine on fire with his 40 time. The Lions could really use a BIG change of pace guy who has speed but is also not expected to be the "workhorse" in the stable. Yet he does have the ability to contribute both in the flats on screen passes and between the tackles on short yardage situations.
He did have issues with fumbling in college and was utilized mostly in open space. where he had the size and speed to go against guys and get a consistent amount of yardage. Fumbling the ball can be corrected with good coaching, though. If given the chance in the NFL, he still outsizes everyone in every secondary and is faster than most as well.
He will be a lethal third down back that would make even Chester Taylor look "ok" by comparison. Best of all, his speed and size give him the potential "bust one off" factor that gives him the chance to take one to the house from anywhere on the field. This is a great thing to be able to do, and the Lions only have one RB with this ability right now (Best).
With Fannin, the Lions stable of RB's would contain just enough thunder without compromising the lightning. Plus, he's so undervalued that even going up to get him in the fourth round could look like a steal after he's had a chance to develop in the Lions system.
Consider this also: Arian Foster was signed as an undrafted free agent after playing his college football at Tennessee, where he also had fumble-itis and was overlooked by draft scouts. Today, he's sitting pretty with the 2010 NFL Rushing Crown.
Please watch the silent highlight reel as to me it shows a back with speed, size and hands who is hard to bring down once he's going.
Round 5; Terrance Toliver, WR: Pick No. 154
Terrance Toliver is a great value here in the fifth round. He's a size guy with average speed for a WR. He actually has the same build as AJ Green. Honestly, it really boggles my mind why Toliver isn't rated much higher than he is. He's got some of the biggest hands in the draft at 10 inches.
He's not going to wow you with his moves or his speed, but he's got all the tools to be a solid flanker in the NFL or even be a big possession receiver from the slot position in the middle of the field.
Toliver would give the Lions yet another guy with hands and height. He could easily spread the field with Burleson and Johnson making match-ups with Detroit receiving corps a nightmare for opposing defenses.
This pick would make nearly all of the Lions reviving threats (assuming Derrick Williams is cut in 2011) over 6'3", with Bryant Johnson being the shortest guy.
In my first mock draft, V.1.1, I had the Lions picking up Torrey Smith in the second round. With this draft, I allocated much more attention to defense in the first rounds of the draft.
At 6-4, Toliver could give the Lions could give the tallest average WR/TE height of every team in the NFL. Obviously though more importantly, when matching up Toliver with nickel backs and safeties, he will have a built in size advantage in most cases, which will produce match up issues for opposing DC's.
Round 7: David Mims, OT (RT), Virginia Union: Pick No. 205
David Mims was a guy that fellow Bleacher Report writer Michael Sudds suggested I look into when I wrote my mock draft V 1.1 a couple weeks ago. He's a guy that came from a relatively small school, Virginia Union. He's absolutely enormous and a solid prospect for a developmental Right Tackle.
Mims is one of a few rookie offensive tackles that actually need to lose some weight to encourage scouts and coaches to have faith in his mobility. His size is also why many think he's probably not mobile enough to play the LT position.
David Mims weighs in at 333 lbs and stands 6'8". He's the Jared Veldheer (small school, huge guy) prospect of this year's NFL Draft. Last year, the Raiders went up to the podium in the third round and turned in a card with Veldheer's name on it due to his incredibly large measurable size attributes. It wouldn't be unheard of for the Raiders (or another team) to do the same thing for Mims, and honestly, this pick here at the seventh round is probably extremely optimistic and a case of wishful thinking. That being said, this is a mock draft, and no one can predict just how all the chips are going to fall.
I think the comparisons between Mims and Veldheer are very close, and the chances of the Lions striking gold with this seventh round pick could be huge. Veldheer was moved to center in the preseason, but then was moved back to tackle where he shared time with starter Mario Henderson. By the mid-point of the season, he had earned the starting left tackle position in Oakland, supplanting starter Mario Henderson for the job.
That being said, being able to pick up a guy like Mims in the seventh round would be amazing value for the Detroit Lions. Lets just hope the Ravens and the Chiefs (the only other two teams who have worked out Mims to have a look) both pass on him, giving the Lions a chance to pick up this monster of an offensive tackle.